When my children were babies, feeding them was a breeze. They enjoyed their breast milk and easily transitioned to those grain cereals. My mother fed baby Lexia her first solids and she literally, (with her eyes like saucers) took hold of the spoon in her Grandmother's hands and guided them into her mouth! Every time! My Son would do the excited kick in his high chair in anticipation. And not to brag, but I overheard the lactation consultant talking to another when I walked by saying, "Her son should be named Count Milkulah." I was so proud.
As toddlers, both of them ate whatever was served. Allergies? None. I made sure every food group was represented. Fish? Check! Vegetables? Check! I pitied those parents that had to hide the vegetables in order for their kids to eat them. Even pizza was made with whole wheat crust and spinach! Surely these parents with difficulty were giving too many choices or too few. They were either making eating too serious or too frivolous. I had this all figured out barely even trying.
Then when she was four and he was six, the tide turned.
We were away in paradise at a Japanese Restaurant. Surely, she would be excited to eat the fresh food that would be prepared in front of her. On this particular night, Lexia was suffering from an allergic reaction and was sleepy on meds. We were having dinner off schedule, about 90 minutes later than usual. As soon as we sat down and she heard what was being served, she started sobbing. The waiter then whispered something to her and disappeared. When our food was ready and being sliced and served, hands appeared and were seen lowering spaghetti. There was no longer a peep as she ate forkful after forkful. We were thankful for this peaceful meal, but we knew this was foreshadowing the future...
And then she turned six. Like an inner alarm had gone off... she had officially become a "picky eater."
My son had become picky as well. Now at fourteen, he has expanded his palette. But certain countries are sadly still off the table. Though his father is happy he can now occasionally have someone to share a burger or a steak with.
My daughter at 11 1/2 has limited herself to only five food options for dinner. And on Saturdays, "Gummy Candy" becomes a food group. But if you analyze her choices (which I have painstakingly done hundreds of times), you would be surprised to find that each food group is actually covered. Although eating out and on vacation has its limits with her, she has a great appetite. And has plenty of fuel to do hours of extracurricular activities. So when their eating habits are an inconvenience for us, does that make it wrong?
Since all her food groups are covered, I have over the years stopped privately and publicly obsessing over her lack of choices. I still offer her what everyone else is eating but without panic in my voice. We have an understanding that she at times must come up with compromises at restaurants in order to dine as a family. And that may mean a repeat of last night's dinner. This "freedom" has made her very independent. Often she makes her own healthy smoothie in the blender and puts together her own dinner. If I had forced her to stay at the table, or the reverse, put her to bed without any supper, perhaps she wouldn't have developed these life skills.
What do you do with your picky eater? We would love to know. Please leave your comments below.